Thursday, June 25, 2015

Journalists Share Blame for Charleston Tragedy

American journalists are partly to blame for the recent racist shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, because they continue to perpetuate the old southern racist myth that black Americans are a separate "race" from white Americans.   Journalists seem to support the "one drop rule" or "part black all black". For example, they continue to refer to Asian ancestry golfer  Tiger Woods as "African American" even though his mother has Asian and Dutch ancestry and his father has Asian, European and North American ancestry as well as African ancestry.  These racist journalists even refer to a child who has a black parent and a white parent as "biracial" even though the black parent might have more recent ancestors from Europe and North America than from Africa.

The extremely racist term "African-American" implies that blacks are Africans living in America rather than Americans with some African ancestors.  The only African ancestors most descendents of American slaves had left  Africa over two centuries ago.  The number of Africans arriving in the United States dropped substantially after the government banned the importation of slaves in 1808.  Some  African ancestors of black Americans left Africa four centuries ago.  Twenty Africans arrived at Jamestown in August, 1619.  Others had been living in the Spanish controlled areas of what became Florida, Georgia and South Carolina before the English established Jamestown or landed at Plymouth Rock.  It was the Spanish who gave the Africans the name "Negro" which is Spanish for "black". 
The dark skinned peoples of Sub-Saharan Africa might be  of a different race  from the light skinned peoples of northern Africa and Europe,  but Americans have had too much sex across the color line over the last 400 years to be of different races. 

Sex across the color line in North America has been documented as far back as the 1630's when African John Punch married a white woman believed to be an indentured servant.    Punch is believed to be the first permanent slave in Virginia.  Previously "slaves" were called indentured servants and they served for a specific number of years.   His descendents were called "Bunch" and are believed to include diplomat Ralph Bunche and Stanley Ann Dunham, the mother of President Barack Obama.   The small population of early Virginia meant that people often had to find mates across the color line.

In the mid 17th Century slave owners  decided to turn the dark skinned slaves into permanent slaves with white slaves continuing to be indentured  servants.  To increase the number of permanent slaves some  slaves owners required white female slaves  to mate with African male slaves so that the resulting dark skinned babies could be kept as permanent slaves.  The white male slaves would then be left to mate with African female slaves.

The early Africans began a long association with the various North American peoples.  The first association of an African with North Americans occurred in 1526.   In the English colonies some villages would accept escaped slaves into the village and others would not.   In the early 19th century the Cherokee and some others held black slaves.

Virtually all the  African ancestors of slaves arrived before importation of Africans was outlawed in 1808.  Only about  500,000  Africans were imported into North America during the period of the North American slave trade.   This number is significant considering that the total U.S. population in 1790 was only about 4 million with  about 20% or  757,000 blacks.  

The only inherent difference between black and white Americans is a half dozen genes that control skin color.  A person can have a dark complexion even though a majority of skin color genes come from European ancestors because the genes that code for dark complexion are dominant and only a couple are needed for a relatively dark complexion.  One of the genes that codes for a dark complexion is common among peoples of North America and Asia as well as Africa.

The slave genome continued to receive new DNA from plantation owners and overseers until slavery was ended.  The most prominent example of this practice in the United States was the relationship between President Thomas Jefferson and his concubine Sally Hemings.

Southern laws prohibiting sex across the color line were ignored if the female was black such as in the case of the  mother of  Sen. Strom Thurmond's black daughter. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is known to have had a white male ancestor who provided his "Y" chromosome. In the South white men could rape black women without fear of prosecution until the 1960's.  

It's likely that some children of mixed ancestry were passing for white by the early 18th Century.  Many whites who researched their ancestry after the "Roots" television series were surprised to find ancestors whose military records included the letter "C" after the name for "Colored".  President Warren G. Harding acknowledged he had some black ancestors. Some believe that  four other white presidents  may have had African ancestors.   It is particularly likely that President Abraham Lincoln got his dark curly hair from a black ancestor.  Many of his contemporaries believed he had slave ancestors.   Most white people who have African ancestors probably don't know it because that type of information usually was kept secret when a person passed for white.

It's time we Americans recognize that America is not the home of a black race and a white race, but instead is the home of a single race  whose ancestors were red and yellow, black and white.
Those who are serious about eliminating racism need to begin by eliminating racist terms like "African-American" and racist myths like the idea colors separate us into different races. They need to concentrate on how we are the same rather than how we are different.  We need to recognize the wisdom of the Lakota phrase Aho Mitakuye Oyasin (We Are All Related) .

Black leaders along with politicians and journalists should forget the spurious issue of the Confederate flag.  As the great grandson of a Union army veteran, I don't really understand why southerners have a fascination with the flag, but it is not inherently a symbol of racism. I've always understood it has a defiance of authority.   Eliminating the flag will do absolutely nothing to eliminate racism.  The action might actually encourage violent racists.  With one violent act a coward terrorized the black population of the south.  Racists may think that all they will have to do is wave a confederate flag and black people will hide under their beds.  Normal people don't understand that some people, especially some men, would rather be a pariah then a nobody.

Eliminating the flag will make the little coward who committed murder in God's House a major hero among his kind and a major historical figure.  He will be mentioned in history books as the man who caused southern states to change their flags.  To borrow a quote from the late Paul Harvey: "he [the killer] would want me to mention his name."

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